The rich academic and historic heritage of St. Mary Interparochial School dates to the early days of Philadelphia, as Catholics and Protestants engaged in a spirited debate over educational practices. Founded in 1782 by the Jesuit fathers of old St. Joseph’s Church, St. Mary is known as “The Mother School of Catholic parochial education” and is credited with influencing catholic educational patterns in this country.
Situated in Independence National Historical Park, St. Mary is within walking distance to several key sites pivotal to our nation’s founding, including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Carpenter’s Hall, the First Bank and Washington Square, the location of the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier. St. Mary served children from the early days of Philadelphia for more than a century before closing in 1902 after a devastating fire. In 1969, the school was re-opened by the Sisters of Notre Dame to serve a growing and diverse population of young students from all parts of Philadelphia. The school’s historic associations extend to its parish churches as well. St. Mary was originally the official parish school for Old St. Mary’s Church, Old St. Joseph’s Church and Holy Trinity Church, however, today it receives its unique inter-parochial status by receiving students from parishes citywide in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Dioceses of Camden and Trenton, NJ.
Story of the Doors
The designers of St. Mary Interparochial School devoted special attention to the stained-glass doors that welcome all who enter this sanctuary of learning and spirituality. Created in rich colors, the doors depict two intertwined themes: Our nation’s fight for independence and our city’s distinction as an oasis of religious freedom.
Look closely, and you will see depictions of the symbolic “Freedom Ship,” the British occupation of the city, and the Stars and Stripes. Founding fathers George Washington and John Adams, as well as famous figures from Philadelphia’s religious history, are shown as well. Several crosses memorialize the 667 victims of the tragic yellow fever epidemic of 1793 who are buried beneath the current school building. The many religious sisters who dedicated themselves to the care and education of Philadelphia’s children are represented as well, including Philadelphia native St. Katharine Drexel.